London — The African online and mobile payment processing space is becoming extremely crowded. The winners will be those that can deliver high volumes of transactions. So whatever the problems of the Nigerian economy has now, it would be sensible to be looking for long-term winners in that market. Russell Southwood spoke to one of the runners, Michael Simeon, Co-Founder and CEO, VoguePay.
VoguePay is a payment processing company that can send and collect money from Africa: 95% of its business is B2C and 5% B2B. It has over 100,000 registered users and 50,000 active users. 80% of them are in Nigeria but the rest are international customers in places like the USA, China and the Philippines:"Our business is trying to tap into Africa and Nigeria predominantly (at the moment)".
"We have customers in London selling services to Nigerians. Someone can pay for those services in Lekki and our customers (who have sold the service) can collect their funds in London (or internationally)". It has among its Pay TV companies, car auction sites in the USA, cloud and server companies and people trading in commodities:"Our biggest customer is a company that sells SMS into banks and other companies. It's a seamless way of collecting money".
There is a lot of business from laptops or tablets (usually Android) and at night, it's mainly the mobile phone, again mainly Android. When the Internet's not available, you can use SMS.
"In 18 months to two years we should have a million customers. We have an average of 220% growth per month despite the challenges in terms of the recession. We have built a brand equity in the market. We'd like to capture the ECOWAS region and see ourselves forming partnerships elsewhere in Africa". It has recently registered as a company in Uganda and wants to run a soft trial there.
So how are people getting to hear about the service?:" So far we've hacked our growth organically. We've had lots of TV interviews. Phase 2 will be digital marketing, all the usual Facebook campaigns. We've also entered into lots of partnerships. For example, we were recently selected for a sole partnership for computer students. There are 261,000 computer students in Nigeria".
It's also making a clear pitch to developers by offering them a lot of plug-ins that can be used on website to connect to the service:" We're working with Nigerian youth to use our wallets and are partnering with banks. There are different strategies to achieve it. We understand the pain points in the market".
So how much capital has it raised?:" We're the only fintech business that never raised a penny but we want to get bigger penetration and become more profitable. We're looking to do a fundraising round next year that will raise tens of millions of dollars".
On the B2B side, the customer either connects with APIs or via VoguePay's website:"We have to do business verification. Security is very important and we need to be KYC compliant. That's usually completed within 24 hours. Once it's established that the customer is a genuine business, the company gets a dashboard. The VoguePay page comes up. They are then ready to start transacting and there are various options open to them: pay by cash, Interswitch or other cards".
"We have partnerships with various banks including FCNB and GT for the SWIFT part of the process. The entry goes into your own account (on the browser) as an entry and shows either a manual or automatic withdrawal. Anything unusual is filtered to our fraud department".
"You can then withdraw your money and we show you the rate. The money is usually paid out the following day but within 72 hours through a payment from the bank to the customer bank".
On the B2C side individuals load their money into a wallet and then convert it into Naira:"We don't deal with cash and you can only pay to banks".
For Nigerian individual customers with Naira denominated cards the transaction fee is 1.5% and for above N2,500 there is an additional charge of N30. For dollar denominated Visa or Mastercards, there is 3.8% transaction charge plus 0.50 of the currency transacted. So if it is dollars you pay an additional US50 cents.
Over the next 18 months, VoguePay will be launching three new products and time will tell whether it can maintain its current high rates of growth and conquer both the Nigerian and ECOWAS markets.
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